A beauty dish is a great light modifier and they are used quite a bit in fashion photography. However, if you’re a speedlight user they can be a little hard to come by unless you create one yourself. Today I’m going to show you just how I made my very own beauty dish from a light I picked up from Ikea for $25.00.
Here’s what you’re gonna need to get this thing together:
- Ikea SEPTIM Pendant Lamp
- A small sheet of steel (something fairly thin; I got mine at Lowe’s)
- Jigsaw and/or Dremel with cutting wheels
- 3 – 3″ bolts
- 9 – nuts for 3″ bolts
- Drill with drill bits
- Gaffer’s tape or duct tape
Once you have all of your materials together and have a place to start your work, the real fun begins. This isn’t a hard project but it does take a little bit of patience.
The first step is going to be to cut off the top of the lamp shade. BTW, you can dispose of (or find another use for) the light fixture and chain that comes with the lamp. Carefully cut the top part of the lamp shade off with a Dremel or jigsaw. Be sure not to cut too much, as you want this thing to fit securely around your flash.
Once you’re done cutting, be sure to sand down the edges so that you don’t cut your hands. Not to mention the fact that this is where your flash will be going and you don’t want sharp edges tearing up your speedlights!
The next step is to cut four slits into the top of the lamp (see above) so that you essentially have four tabs to work with. You will be able to bend and shape these tabs to better fit your flavor of flash.
Next, I covered the sanded edges with white gaffer’s tape to be sure that I had some protection in place for my speedlights. A couple of layers will do just fine. If you’re paranoid about your flashes, then you can add more if you like.
Now it’s time to cut out the reflector to use in our beauty dish. I wanted a reflector that was 6 inches in diameter and I just so happened to have a paper towel holder in my garage that had a base that was exactly 6 inches. So I used that to trace a circle with a Sharpie. Once I had my circle traced, I used a jigsaw (with a metal cutting blade) to cut it out of my sheet of steel. (For safety reasons, I didn’t take a picture of myself trying to cut out the reflector. That would be bad.)
The picture above shows what my reflector looked like after I cut it out. Be sure to sand down the edges on this piece too so that you don’t cut yourself on this part either. Sharp aluminum and human flesh never are a good match.
Now we’re ready to drill the holes for our bolts that will bold our reflector in place. I drilled three holes about 1 inch away from base of the “flaps”. I drilled them in approximate, equal distances apart from each other. Be sure you drill holes with a drill bit just big enough to accommodate your bolts. Once your holes are drilled, insert the three bolts into the holes from the top of the lamp down. Use a nut to secure each bolt into place. Once you’re done with that, then you can get ready to mount your reflector.
Next, take your reflector and drill three holes into it for your bolts. Since the reflector is pretty thin, I recommend that you drill them on top of a 2×4 or other piece of wood. It will make your drilling job much less complicated. After your holes are drilled then place a nut on each of the 3 bolts. Screw the nut down until it’s about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch down from the end of the bolt. Then place your reflector onto the 3 bolts.
Now take 3 more nuts and place one on each of the 3 bolts to hold your reflector in place. The great thing about using this method of mounting the reflector is you can move the reflector closer or further away from your beauty dish so you can experiment. Once you have your reflector securely in place you’re all done! Now it’s time to take it for a test shot or ten!
Here’s a test shot with mine (my daughter was kind enough to model for me):
So far this design seems to be pretty efficient as I shot the image above at 1/16th power at f8 1/60th. Not bad if you ask me. (Reflector Tip: If you buy a sheet of steel that isn’t very shiny you can cover it with aluminum foil.)
There you have it, another great way to modify the light from the most portable light source ever, speedlights. Now go out and put this info to good use and build your own! Post links to your own design in the comments. Have a great day and happy lighting!